Daniel LaRusso

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Daniel LaRusso
The Karate Kid character
First appearanceThe Karate Kid
Created byRobert Mark Kamen
Portrayed byRalph Macchio
Voiced byJoey Dedio
In-universe information
OccupationCar dealership owner
FamilyDavid LaRusso (deceased father)
Lucille LaRusso (mother)
SpouseAmanda LaRusso
Significant otherAli Mills
ChildrenSamantha LaRusso (daughter)
Anthony LaRusso (son)
RelativesLouie LaRusso Sr. (uncle)
Louie LaRusso Jr. (cousin)
Richard Millar (cousin)

Daniel LaRusso is a fictional character who appears in The Karate Kid series of films created by Robert Mark Kamen. He serves as the protagonist of the first three Karate Kid films, as well as one of the main protagonists of the Cobra Kai web television series.[1]

In 2018, LaRusso was inducted into the Fictitious Athlete Hall of Fame.[2]

Fictional biography[edit]

Daniel LaRusso was born on December 18, 1966 in Newark, New Jersey, into an Italian-American family. When he was eight years old, his father David Larusso died after a 2-year battle with stomach cancer. His last words to his son were, "I love you. Don't you ever forget that!". His wife Lucille never re-married and Daniel was left without a father. In September 1984, Daniel and his mother Lucille moved to Reseda, California, after Lucille accepted a job offer at a computer firm.

Daniel is currently a successful owner of a car dealership in Southern California. He and his wife Amanda (who runs the business with him) live in a large home with a swimming pool, and have two children, Samantha and Anthony.


The Karate Kid (1984)[edit]

Single mother Lucille LaRusso uproots her only child, Daniel, from their home in New Jersey and moves them both to the South Seas Apartments in Reseda, California. Daniel is invited by his new neighbor Freddy Fernandez to a beach party, where he meets Ali Mills. He also encounters and is beaten by Ali's ex-boyfriend Johnny Lawrence in a fight. During his first month in school, Daniel is constantly bullied by Johnny and his Cobra Kai gang. At the school's Halloween dance, Daniel attempts to get back at Johnny by placing a hose above the toilet stall where Johnny is rolling a joint, getting him wet. His scheme backfires and he is chased and beaten up by the Cobra Kai gang outside his apartment until Mr. Miyagi, the apartment's maintenance man, intervenes and saves Daniel. The next day, Mr. Miyagi confronts Cobra Kai sensei John Kreese and proposes to have Daniel and Johnny's feud settled in the upcoming All Valley Under-18 Karate Championships tournament on December 19. Kreese agrees, but warns that if they do not show up at the tournament, both Daniel and Mr. Miyagi will be declared fair game to Cobra Kai.

Daniel is initially upset with Mr. Miyagi over the arrangement, but Mr. Miyagi assures that with proper karate training, he will no longer have to worry about Cobra Kai. Mr. Miyagi has Daniel do mundane chores at his rest house such as waxing his classic cars, sanding the wood floors, and painting the fence. Daniel threatens to quit over doing these chores, but Mr. Miyagi shows that the chores double as karate defensive maneuvers. While training with Mr. Miyagi, Daniel develops a relationship with Ali. Mr. Miyagi also gives Daniel his yellow 1948 Ford Super De Luxe convertible as a birthday present and a reward for getting his driver's license.

At the tournament, Daniel unexpectedly advances toward the semifinals. Kreese instructs Bobby Brown, one of his more compassionate students and the least vicious of Daniel's tormentors, to put Daniel out of commission. Bobby reluctantly does an illegal kick to Daniel's knee, getting himself disqualified while Johnny looks at Kreese in disgust. As Johnny is about to be declared the winner by default, Ali informs the tournament announcer that Daniel will fight in the final round. During the fight, Daniel gets the upper hand and gives Johnny a bloody nose. Kreese orders Johnny to sweep Daniel's leg, an unethical move. Fearing his sensei, Johnny hits Daniel's bad leg with an elbow strike and receives a warning from the referee. Upon the restart of the round, Daniel wins the match after landing a crane kick to Johnny's face. Having gained respect for his nemesis, Johnny gives Daniel the trophy. Daniel celebrates the victory as Mr. Miyagi looks on, proud of his student.[3]

The Karate Kid Part II (1986)[edit]

At the beginning of the film (six months after the end of The Karate Kid), Daniel returns early one morning to Mr. Miyagi's house dressed in a tuxedo and driving what is now the badly beaten up car Mr. Miyagi had given him. Surprised, Mr. Miyagi said that it "must have been some senior prom, what happened?" In response, Daniel exclaims (with anger): "you mean, what didn't happen! First I let Ali borrow the car and she redesigns my fender. And I don't know what she did with the engine but that ain't running right either. And you know what else she does? She tells me that she's just fallen in love with some football player from UCLA. Why didn't she just lie?" Later, when Daniel learns that Mr. Miyagi is going to Okinawa to visit his dying father, he uses his college fund to fly with him. Upon their arrival, they meet Sato Toguchi, a wealthy businessman and Mr. Miyagi's former best friend. Daniel meets Kumiko, a teenager who aspires to move to Tokyo and pursue a career in dancing. He also encounters Sato's nephew Chozen, who harasses him after Daniel inadvertently exposes the corruption on Chozen's grocery business. One day in town, Chozen challenges Daniel to chop a row of ice sheets; however, Daniel wins Chozen's wager by using Mr. Miyagi's breathing exercise and successfully breaking all of the ice sheets. Mr. Miyagi tells Daniel to keep his winnings for college. The Toguchi family continues to terrorize the Miyagi family home until a typhoon hits Okinawa. During the storm, Sato is pinned by debris from his family's dojo and while Chozen runs away, Daniel and Mr. Miyagi save Sato's life. Because of this, Sato's decades-old grudge with Mr. Miyagi is settled and he offers to rebuild the village. A disowned and humiliated Chozen crashes the village's Obon festival to take Kumiko hostage and challenge Daniel to a fight to the death. Daniel and Chozen fight a brutal and bloody back-and-forth fight, and Miyagi, Sato, and the crowd use their handheld drums to motivate Daniel and defeat his opponent with the Miyagi family drum technique.

The Karate Kid Part III (1989)[edit]

Daniel and Mr. Miyagi return to Los Angeles from Okinawa only to discover that their apartment is undergoing demolition. The landlord sold the building, putting Mr. Miyagi out of a job. Lucille is back in New Jersey to care for Daniel's uncle, Louie. Using the rest of his college fund, Daniel helps Mr. Miyagi set up a bonsai tree nursery. Daniel receives an invitation to defend his championship title at the next All Valley Under-18 Karate Championships, but Mr. Miyagi tells him to ignore it, seeing no point in the competition. However, he is confronted by prodigious and undefeated karateka Mike Barnes, who threatens Daniel to defend his title and steals the shop's bonsai trees. Terry Silver, a friend of Kreese and co-founder of the Cobra Kai dojo, offers to train Daniel for the tournament. Little does Daniel know that this is an elaborate scheme for Kreese and Cobra Kai to exact revenge on him by physically weakening him to have him suffer defeat from Barnes. Silver hopes that this will revive Cobra Kai and promises to give Barnes partial ownership of the dojo in exchange for his help. Silver's methods start to corrupt Daniel, who becomes more aggressive and alienated from Miyagi. Realizing this, Daniel confronts Silver and tells him that no longer wishes to train under him, after which Silver admits to him his scheme. When Kreese reveals himself and Barnes attacks Daniel, Mr. Miyagi saves his pupil and agrees to train him for the tournament.

At the tournament, Barnes swiftly advances to face Daniel in the final round. He uses Silver and Kreese's tactic of scoring a point, then losing it with an illegal move until they reach the sudden death round. After Mr. Miyagi prevents him from conceding the match, Daniel performs a kata in the sudden death round. A confused Barnes charges at Daniel, but Daniel flips him to the ground and strikes him to win the tournament.

Cobra Kai (2018–)[edit]

Cobra Kai takes place 34 years after the first film. Daniel is happily married to Amanda and has two children, Samantha (born 2002) and Anthony (born 2008). He and Amanda own the LaRusso Auto Group, a chain of car dealerships in the San Fernando Valley. As part of the dealership chain's commitment to customer satisfaction, Daniel personally gives each new client their own bonsai tree. He unexpectedly meets up with his old nemesis, Johnny Lawrence, when his car is wrecked and sent to his intake lot. Daniel, unaware that his daughter Samantha was a passenger when her friends accidentally caused the wreck, offers to fix his car for free. He discovers that Johnny has reopened the Cobra Kai dojo in Reseda. He fears that Johnny will create a new generation of bullies that he and Mr. Miyagi had to face in the past. In addition, Daniel begins to struggle with issues within his family and business.[4]

Johnny's estranged son Robby Keene gets a job at the LaRusso Auto Group to get back at his father. Unaware that Robby is Johnny's son, Daniel takes him in as his karate student. As such, Daniel proves to be a positive influence on the boy, who turns on his criminal former friends who plan to rob the dealership. However, upon learning that Johnny is Robby's father, Daniel fires and banishes him. Undaunted, Robby participates in the All Valley Karate Tournament against Cobra Kai as an independent fighter, and the combination of this tenacity impressing Daniel and his wife convincing him to forgive the boy's mistakes leads to Daniel becoming Robby's sensei again. In the semifinals, Robby's shoulder is badly injured when Cobra Kai student Hawk attacks him from behind. Daniel coaches Robby the final match, but loses a close fight to Johnny's top student, Miguel Diaz, who fights dishonorably by exploiting Robby's injury. With teacher and student reconciled, Daniel plans to expand the Miyagi-do style and philosophy with an official dojo to oppose Cobra Kai with Robby being his senior student.

In season 2, Daniel opens the Miyagi-Do dojo and offers his lessons for free, threatening Cobra Kai's business. He takes Robby in as well, and proceeds to train him and Sam together. When he heads to Johnny’s dojo to tell him Robby is staying with them, he sees that Kreese has returned. Unfortunately, Daniel has trouble acquiring students considering they are not receptive to the chore-based muscle memory training style he used himself.

Daniel tried to be the bigger man after Cobra Kai upstaged their demonstration at the local Valley Fest, and even refused to make use of footage of him dispatching of three purse-snatchers caught on Robby’s phone. He took on Demetri as a student which proved challenging. However, at the prodding of Kreese and without Johnny’s knowledge, Hawk led a small group of Cobra Kai students in vandalizing Daniel’s dojo, his prized convertible, and stealing Mr. Miyagi's Medal of Honor. This pushes Daniel too far and he confronts Johnny at the Cobra Kai dojo, leading to numerous students walking out to join Miyagi-Do. Unfortunately, despite this success, Daniel's passion leads to him neglecting his auto business to his wife's irritation since she had to run it herself, which led to loss of staff and declining sales.

Despite a renewed reconciliation of Daniel and Johnny, at the prodding of Amanda and Johnny's girlfriend, Carmen Diaz, the rivalry flares again after a misunderstanding caused by Robby and Samantha spending the night at Johnny's apartment after getting drunk at a party. To make matters worse, this rivalry affects their respective students with growing animosity which finally explodes into a massive karate war on the first day of school. As a result, Samantha is hospitalized and Johnny's favorite student, Miguel, is inadvertently seriously injured by Robby and placed in Intensive Care. This event also allowed Kreese to take over Cobra-Kai from Johnny's control, and Amanda furiously demands Daniel to close the dojo and stop his karate activities. Feeling that he has tainted Miyagi's legacy, Daniel sadly obliges to close down the dojo.


"Daniel LaRusso," as conceived in the original films, is an iconic hero.[5][6] Since the turn of the 21st Century, however, LaRusso (along with the character "Johnny") has been more deeply developed.[7][8][9][10]

Notably in 2013, Macchio and Zabka made a guest appearance as themselves in the television sitcom How I Met Your Mother ("The Bro Mitzvah"). In the episode, Macchio is invited to Barney Stinson's bachelor party, leading to Barney shouting that he hates Macchio and that Johnny was the real hero of The Karate Kid. Towards the end of the episode, a clown in the party wipes off his makeup and reveals himself as Zabka.[11] This influenced the 2018 web television series, Cobra Kai, which gives a balanced perspective for Daniel, Johnny, and other characters.


  1. ^ "Ralph Macchio talks Karate Kid's return with Cobra Kai". SI. Retrieved 25 June 2018.
  2. ^ "The 2018 Fictitious Athlete Inductions". Fictitious Athlete Hall of Fame. Retrieved January 4, 2019.
  3. ^ Powell, Larry; Garrett, Tom (December 20, 2013). "The Films of John G. Avildsen: Rocky, The Karate Kid and Other Underdogs". McFarland. Retrieved June 25, 2018 – via Google Books.
  4. ^ "The Karate Kid Is All Grown Up and Actually the Bad Guy Now". Esquire. 22 March 2018. Retrieved 25 June 2018.
  5. ^ Hyde, Douglas (2005-02-08). "The once and future 'Karate Kid'". CNN. Retrieved 2019-05-16.
  6. ^ Prewitt, Alex (2018-05-01). "The Crane Kick Is Bogus: A Karate Kid Oral History". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 2019-05-13.
  7. ^ "The Way of Fatherhood, as seen in "Cobra Kai"". Salon. 17 June 2018. Retrieved 25 June 2018.
  8. ^ "Is Johnny The Real Hero of THE KARATE KID? – Nerdist". 27 August 2015. Retrieved 25 June 2018.
  9. ^ Calia, Michael (24 August 2015). "Is Daniel LaRusso the Real Villain of 'The Karate Kid'?". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 25 June 2018.
  10. ^ "Ralph Macchio is still Daniel LaRusso in "Cobra Kai," but he's no longer a "Karate Kid"". Salon. 29 April 2018. Retrieved 25 June 2018.
  11. ^ Gonzalez, Sandra (April 29, 2013). "'How I Met Your Mother' recap, 'Bro Mitzvah': The REAL Karate Kid". ew.com. Retrieved May 12, 2018.

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